Time to churn out another one for the guilty pleasures list…insane fighting action yet in terms of description is quite realistic (the fight styles yes, the fighters…no) and often hilarious albeit without much of a point but is highly entertaining? That’ll do nicely…
What They Say :
Can this weak-kneed boy become the greatest martial artist of all time? Yeah, Kenichi’s a total wimp. He’s always getting picked on and doesn’t have a lot of friends to stick up for him. The guy needs motivation if he hopes to graduate in one piece. Well, Miu’s the perfect motivation. She’s hot, she accepts him, and she just so happens to live at a dojo with six martial arts masters. You could say fate has led Kenichi to their door, or you could say he was just following the hottie. Either way, he’s about to get whipped into serious shape. If he can survive some hard-core training, he might survive another day at school. He might even score with Miu. Yeah, you could call Kenichi a wimp. But let’s go with underdog instead.
Set in English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0, the sound quality is excellent in its 5.1 version (Had to turn it down from its default settings which showcases the quality) whilst the Japanese sound effect seemed to be the reverse as was a bit weaker than expected where had to turn it much higher up, which was a bit disappointing though the fact this is a good dub will probably make the 5.1 version even higher priority. No issues in either language regarding syncing with subtitles or out of sync in general. Video quality was excellent – a very bright, colourful and action paced show and the video doesn’t take chances to ruin that, in large widescreen format it was great to watch with no problems with transition, no bad quality issues with pausing and no ratio format issues either. Overall, a quality release.
Menu is fairly standard, all DVDs have the same picture of Miu and Kenichi in a sun like background with the yin and yang symbol below them – selections are easy, Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on the last disc Extras. No issues with selection from the menu or from the show, however is pretty basic and uninspiring and a tad lazy, though it does its job without any issues.
The only extras were the two clean openings and endings on the fourth disc.
Kenichi was a release I was very surprised to get a UK license – having been familiar with the US release I was pleasantly happy that it came here, as it is definitely a series that could have a decent following with it’s over the top fighting scenes and interesting mix of characters. Unlike Naruto, Bleach, DBZ and the soon to be released One Piece, Kenichi’s one unique trait is whilst a lot of the fighters are way over the top with their techniques, Kenichi himself is actually taught as a regular human and most of the non masters are actually portrayed fairly realistically and the actual martial arts is show really well which makes this a rather unique show when the fighting is both realistic and unrealistic at the same time…
Kenichi is your typical loser protagonist, who is basically trying to learn karate to avoid getting picked on – unfortunately his karate club is also quite the bullies, with one of them challenging him to a fight where the loser leaves the karate club. Earlier in the day, he bumps into a new transfer student, a beautiful girl named Miu who he later discovers is actually an accomplished martial artist, taking out a gang with ease as Kenichi first was going to try and help her. Miu and Kenichi become friends and Miu decides to bring him to her home Rozanpaku, which is a dojo. Kenichi is obviously attracted to Miu and sees this as a way to get closer to her…
…and then he meets the masters. Oh boy.
Each of them is trained in a distinct style, and is the cause of the ‘unrealistic’ and ‘realistic’ mentions I said earlier. In terms of their skills and abilities, they are definitely overpowered shounen jump style. We have Sakaki, the karate master who enjoys alcohol, is the one who most wants to train Kenichi but at the same time doesn’t want to admit it, we have Akisame, the wise jujitsu master who is the first to train him…or torture him, and it’s pretty much the same. We have Kensei, a Chinese kung-fu master who enjoys trying to take pics of Miu…or Shigure, the beautiful female ninja who says little but is a master of weapons, my personal favourite Apachai, a Muay Thai master from Thailand with basic English/Japanese, loved by animal and children…who doesn’t know how to hold back, and finally Miu’s grandfather Hayato, who can walk on water, kill sharks and travel the world on foot.
The realistic part though is when they are teaching Kenichi (at least when not physically torturing the poor kid) a lot of what they do in terms of technique and the actual moves (Miu also giving him a lot of help) are actually told quite well. Even some of the over the top stuff (like the statue training Akisame gives) does help realistically in increasing his strength, just a little bit more risky than you’d expect even the toughest dojos to do. Some early help from Miu helps him defeat the bully at the karate club, and now mixing all the styles of each of his masters slowly makes him better, as people start to take an interest in Kenichi as a fighter at his school. One gang/group in particular known as Ragnarok seem to be particular interesting in getting him to join, and this is where the crux of the ‘story’ comes into play as Kenichi has to avoid or fight members of Ragnarok to avoid being recruited. A combination of Kenichi being a lovable coward by hiding in his gardening club, the masters pointing them in Ragnarok’s direction (usually by using his crush on Miu) to see if he is improved, or by Ragnarok flunkies trying to drag him to their base is how the series goes.
As it does continue, we get some of the main people of Ragnarok. We have a trio of sub bosses for example, but one of them is named Takeda who is a former junior boxer. Here, we get to what makes Kenichi good is that almost all of the characters that seem important do have some interesting back-story – Takeda is the first one that Kenichi actually befriends to come to his side as he hear his story of how his hand was injured, and how Takeda is grateful for Kenichi for saving him and how Akisame later helps him recover from his injury. Whilst not befriends, the first of the Eight Fists of Ragnarok, the elite fighters of the group, Kisara a.k.a. Valkyrie also has an interesting back-story as she quite clearly hates being seen as a girl and hates Kenichi’s ‘rule’ of not fighting girls yet also admires him because he keeps on defending even when he doesn’t attack just to protect Miu as she is performing in a play. At the moment, the main antagonists are certainly interesting and are not black and white evil, even the current one Tanimoto, a.k.a. Hermit has a double side of being a handsome actor…or a cold as ice fighter. Kensei recognizes him having Chinese techniques similar to his own which suggests a potential plot, and I don’t see this being the end as from the words he has said there is definite potential for a good back-story for him too…
The series overall is a mixed bag though. My main issue is that the plot as it were, is basically Kenichi getting stronger and fighting these guys from Ragnarok. Which is fine, except we have no reason why Ragnarok are this school girl recruiting fighters as of yet – they are literally just a school gang. Kenichi even lampshades it at once basically saying why are you doing this as sooner or later you will have to go and get jobs. There isn’t really much to Kenichi in terms of a plot outside of the interactions he has with Miu, the masters, and the people he fights. He gets a lot of mid bosses which he defeats and only the ones with character like Kisara and Takeda are important. He gets fun moments with them and his family (Kenichi’s little sister is a lot of fun especially when she investigates the dojo when Kenichi moves in with them, her interactions with the social klutzes Apachai and Shigure are a joy to watch) but it’s one where you wonder what the direction is going to be as the series continues, as it seems to be simply a battle against the 8 fists.
Thankfully in terms of just pure switch off fun it is a great series. Kenichi’s ‘friend’ Nijima is a hoot being the evil friend who gives and finds information for Kenichi whilst also screwing him over. Later in the series, he forms the Shinpaku alliance as a rival gang with him and Kenichi at the head…which Kenichi wants nothing to do with, yet the loyalty his gang has for them (and his few moments of kindness hit here too) is surprising and can only see how it develops. Kenichi does grow well as a wimpy coward into a man who fights for his friends even when things are hopeless (or in Miu’s case, the fact she is way stronger than he is but he still wants to protect her, his stand against Kisara being a big turning point), Miu is a wonderful female lead, as a teacher, friend (and the seeds are there for something between her and Kenichi) as well as a foil for the masters at times. And the masters themselves are all unique and fun, each with their own quirks.
I love in particular Sakaki who is such a badass yet is the one who wants to teach Kenichi the most yet doesn’t want to admit it and uses excuses just to help him when he really does warm up to Kenichi (for those who know the term, he’s basically a male tsundere), Apachai is hilarious as he is a gentle giant…but when it comes to training, he is brutal and nearly kills Kenichi a couple of times as he doesn’t know how to hold back – the other masters not quite as amusing but all are unique in their training with Kenichi – Akisame is like the wise old master with really obscure ways of training, which whilst work, look more like torture techniques than training technique, Kensei basically uses him as a partner to try and peep at the girls of the dojo, and Shigure, whilst not as involved (due to Kenichi not wanting to use weapons) is slowly mellowing out after being the quiet stern one, even smiling when she teaching Kenichi how to swim during a day out at a resort. Hayato, Miu’s grandfather hasn’t done any teaching himself, but he has the aura of a wise old master with the powers of Superman – so if he does get involved it will be interesting to see what he plans for the disciple…
Whilst the serious nature of members of Ragnarok being beat up if they desert is a bit over the top for basically just a school gang, combined with the bizarre techniques of the masters, it is still a silly show in that respect. However, the surprising respect it has for the martial arts, a colourful and likeable range of characters, some great comedy and action sequences, and at least potential for drama, means that Kenichi is definitely worth at least a look. Add to that some great fluid animation, a good dub and value for money at 26 episodes, the disciple can only improve more…
Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple is one of those series that will appeal to fans of the shounen jump series, yet also in a strange one, will appeal to ones who may enjoy more of a general look into martial arts styles. Whilst some of the moves and abilities are ridiculous, and the whole plot based on a school gang like they are ready for war is really stupid, the actual characterization, attention to detail and likeability of the leads make this certainly one to give the casual viewer a second look. Definitely worth it just for a series you can switch off and enjoy.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: June 10th, 2013
Running Time: 613 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.